1. On age-group training in general
1.1. What is age-group training?
When discussing age-group training we always think of the training and development of young footballers between the ages of 6 and 18 who are developing. What is development? Development is a forward leading process which has a beginning and an end. This process is divided into definable sections between the beginning and the end. It is important to examine this issue as the concept of development is also valid for the human body and indeed can also be applied to the different organs and organ systems. Thus the development of the human body and within this the organs and organ systems is also a developmental process occurring between two points in time, usually separated by a period of years, which can be divided into distinct sections. It must be stressed that the level of the various physical abilities, and technical and tactical levels of knowledge are closely related to the degree of development of one or more organs or organ systems. Let us look at which organs and organ systems are related to which physical abilities and the learning of technique:
basic stamina – the lungs-heart-circulatory system;
special stamina – the lungs-heart-circulatory system, the bone structure and the muscular system;
strength – the bone structure and the muscular system, the sex-hormone system;
skill and the possibility of learning techniques (technique as a special skill) – the nervous system and the individual’s ability to learn movement;
speed – the nervous system.
Once we know the connections between the various physical abilities and the process of learning techniques and the organs and organ systems, the question arises when each ability should be developed in the knowledge of these. In theory the answer is simple. Every organ and organ system has a period between the ages of 6 and 18 when it undergoes a dramatic change in terms of quantity. We have to be aware of this period, which often lasts for several years, and we have to highlight the development of the physical abilities related to the given organ and organ system as well as teaching the techniques in this particular period. These periods are as follows:
the lungs-heart-circulatory system between the ages of 10 and 16;
the bone structure and muscular system, the sex-hormone system between the ages of 14 and 18 (here the leg muscles are an exception, which start developing earlier, from the age of twelve);
the individual’s ability to learn movement between the ages of 6 and 14.
From this the conclusion can be drawn that the development of basic stamina should be highlighted between the ages of 10 and 16; special stamina between the ages of 14 and 18; strength also between the ages of 14 and 18 (leg strengthening from the age of 12); and skill between the ages of 6 and 14. The period of learning techniques likewise can be placed between the ages of 6 and 14, while the development of speed needs to be examined from the point-of-view of the components of speed. The time to improve running style is between the ages of 6 and 14; the time to develop the components of dynamic leg strength is between the ages of 12 and 18; and the time to develop the components of technique is between the ages of 6 and 14 (Figure 1).
FIGURE 1 THE APPLICATION OF AGE-GROUP TRAINING
So age-group training means that different abilities need to be given emphasis in the development of young footballers between the ages of 6 and 18 within the different age-group limits, depending on the degree of development of their bodies. These times can naturally coincide or overlap each other for a certain period. At the same time, age-group training means a variety of training which extends the limits of the later development of the players. Age-group training and varied training are in the best possible harmony with each other and special training. Varied training is between the ages of 6 and 14 when the children in the course of physical education in school get to know the basic elements of floor exercises, exercises on apparatus and various ball games, such as handball, basketball and volleyball. Examples of basic stamina development between the ages of 10 and 16 are swimming, middle and long distance running in athletics, and generally following any other sport in the long-term.
I had an interesting experience when training the national youth team and later Hungarian first division footballers, which has also been supported by surveys. Those footballers had by far the best basic stamina who in addition to playing football, had also swum, did athletics, or both when younger, even if not on a competitive level, but at least by going to regular training. These excursions into other sports will reap a profit later when the footballer becomes an adult.
A very important basic rule of age-group training is that it is not possible to train 8 to 10 year olds in the same way as 14 to 16 year olds or adult footballers. Young footballers must go through all the stages of age-group training. If they do not do so and a stage is left out, physical abilities cannot or can only to a small degree be developed as an adult footballer and technical elements cannot be taught at all. In football today footballers with an inadequate training play the whole of their careers at a disadvantage that is impossible to overcome. They will not be able to show the abilities concealed in them to their full extent on the field.
1.2. What is the connection between age-group training and physical education in schools?
Physical education in school has the task of assisting the bodily development of the pupils. This curricular training, with the exception of underdeveloped countries, is prepared throughout the world by taking age-group characteristics into consideration. If schools performed this task of theirs correctly and purposefu